Support animal research, save lives

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Sandra Porter
When female bloggers get death threats for comparing a Batman movie to a poor business plan, and friends can have their lab fire bombed for doing plant genetics, it's sometimes a little scary to step into the fray and take a stand on controversial issues. But that's the point. We have to speak out. Scary or not, unless we speak out against the animal rights terrorists who firebomb people's homes and harass researchers, we will lose any chance to save our loved ones from diseases like cancer, HIV, Alzheimer's, or many others. Let's think about just one of these. According to an article from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,
More than 26 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with Alzheimer's disease in 2006
[snip]
the global prevalence of Alzheimer's disease will grow to more than 106 million by 2050. By that time, 43 percent of those with Alzheimer's disease will need high-level care, equivalent to that of a nursing home.
[snip]
"We face a looming global epidemic of Alzheimer's disease as the world's population ages," said the study's lead author,Ron Brookmeyer, PhD, professor in Biostatistics and chair of the Master of Public Health Program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "By 2050, 1 in 85 persons worldwide will have Alzheimer's disease. However, if we can make even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer's disease or delay its progression, we could have a huge global public health impact."
Without animal research, and more importantly scientists conducting animal research, this is our future. A large number of us will watch our loved ones deteriorate and forget us, and fear for the same thing ourselves. When I was in high school, I used to have this idea that animal testing was a horrible, cruel thing that was practiced largely by cosmetic companies to protect us from unsafe eyeliner. I didn't have any objection to doing animal research, but I didn't understand that the same people who were advocating for untested make up were also working against animal research in the lab. So, I supported groups like PAWS because I didn't know any better. Later on, during my lab days, I worked with animals from time to time. It was a necessary part of the work. Believe me, I did not enjoy injecting rats with trypanosomes or using rabbits or mice to make antibodies. But there were no alternatives. If I were to weigh the possibility of helping child with sleeping sickness vs. a cute white lab rat... the chance to help that child would win every time. What can we do? Certainly we speak out about our experiences and thoughts. Several ScienceBloggers: Janet, Wilkins, Orac, Bora, Jonah, Dr. Joan, and Mark and Chris already have written about this and continue to do so. Our newest Scibling, Matt Springer, suggests hiring security specialists and taking self-defense. Update: I missed Greg, he posted on this topic also. Nick Anthis reported first-hand about a counter movement by the people in Oxford, with large numbers of people marching to support biomedical research. Efforts like this are truly encouraging. We have an equivalent group in the US now, too called Speakingofresesearch.org. I think education is one of the best things we can do. Let people know that researchers don't use animals in a thoughtless way. Explain why animal research is necessary. Teach students about the rules that govern the use of research animals and the care that the animals receive. Explain about the three R's - to reduce, refine, and replace. Last, you can support the organizations that are out there working to educate the next generation of young adults. Groups like Protest are great. Other groups like the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, and their sister organizations work on educating students about the role of animals in research. They develop curricula about biomedical ethics, and work with several classrooms to help teach science to the next generation. They need your support. 8-8-2008 Update: Abel and DrugMonkey have posted on this topic, too, and yesterday I reviewed a really good book called "The Animal Research War."

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